Amid public outrage over an upcoming increase in electricity bills, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson Thursday said that some Bahamians should manage their money better.
“Not only have the government not been as diligent as they should have been, but I want to suggest that Bahamians have not been as diligent as we should have been,” he said in the House of Assembly on Thursday during his contribution to the debate of the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019.
Johnson said many who complain of being unable to pay bills are spending money on non-necessities.
“It’s interesting to see sometimes, persons providing electricity bills, when both governments in the past would have given a moratorium and said, ‘Listen, just turn on all the lights,’” he said.
“And when you look at their passports, they are traveling. When you look at the clothes they wear, they are some of the most expensive. When you look at the way that we arrange our finances, it leaves a lot to be desired. So, I say all that to say, Mr. Speaker, that perhaps we have been, as a people, a little lackluster in the way with how we service our bills.”
He added, “In order for us to fully participate in the economic environment in The Bahamas, I think the chickens have to come home to roost. And there are some things that governments can do better. There are some things that we as a people can do better to resolve this whole issue of power.”
The rate reduction bond is expected to help Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) refinance its $321 million legacy debt and raise another $350 million for new spending – $70 million of which would be used to fund an expansion of the Wartsila plant the Clifton Pier Power Station.
On Wednesday, Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said that the bond will result in an average of a $20 to $30 monthly increase to household bills for a 10-month period, and that it will be “wiped out” in 2021.
But he did not detail how that figure was arrived at.
With consumers having long complained of excessive electricity bills, combined with months of unreliable service on New Providence, the announcement has not been well-received by the Bahamian public.